For Sondra Gerhardt Libman, ’67, induction into the 2013 Ohio Foundation Hall of Excellence Wednesday night was an affirmation “that I’m doing OK” as chair of Heidelberg’s Board of Trustees.
More than OK.
Beyond the distinction of being inducted into the Hall of Excellence, Sondra said she was humbled that President Rob Huntington “thinks enough of me to nominate me for this honor.”
“It’s an affirmation from my president that he thinks I’m doing a good job as chair,” she said.
Sondra joined the Board of Trustees in 1998 and became chair in 2006. Since then, she has had a major impact on progress at Heidelberg through leadership, engagement and philanthropy. She has seen the university through presidential transitions, strategic planning, budget challenges and capital campaigns.
“Through her leadership, everyday actions, commitment to others, hard work, philanthropic spirit and special passion for her alma mater, She has helped make Heidelberg University a better institution,” said Huntington during his introduction. “I have come to appreciate the standard that she has set as a leader among her strong peers.”
Huntington added that Heidelberg is blessed by Sondra’s many contributions to Heidelberg, including a seven-figure estate gift in support of the university’s $75 million transformational Academic Comprehensive Campaign for Excellence.
“We are eternally thankful that she decided to leave a legacy for us,” he said.
Perhaps one of her greatest legacies is her intense passion for Heidelberg, which took root when she was a young high school student in Washington, D.C., searching for a college that was a perfect fit for her. During her acceptance remarks at the Hall of Excellence induction ceremony, she reflected on the moment when she knew Heidelberg would be her school.
A music lover, Sondra accompanied a Heidelberg graduate to a Concert Choir performance in the mid-1960s. The alum explained the tradition of graduates standing to sing “Sweet Alma Home,” Heidelberg’s alma mater, at the close of each choir performance. Sondra was instructed not to stand because she was not a graduate.
“I listened to the first half of the concert, during intermission went back stage and met the choir members, returned to my seat for the second half, and when it came time for the alma mater, without hesitation, I stood,” she said. “My choice had been made.”
Sondra calls her ongoing involvement with Heidelberg her “greatest joy.”
“It has been 47 years and Heidelberg is still my family, my home, my heart, my soul,” she said. “To this day, when “Sweet Alma Home” is sung, I stand proudly.”
The event brought added – and very personal – meaning for Sondra. Joining her at the awards ceremony were her husband, Robert; her brother, Bill; daughters Rachel and Rebecca; and seven friends who traveled from their Champaign, Ill., home to be with her for the event. About 20 more trustee colleagues, faculty and staff members also attended to support her.
“It was such a special evening and a wonderful opportunity to include my family and friends,” Sondra said. “They hear me talk about Heidelberg all the time … about the new buildings, the students, President Huntington, my board colleagues. … I wanted them to meet the Heidelberg people and see how unique and special they are.”
Her group of family and friends traveled to Tiffin today to see the campus and participate in the events of The Patricia Adams Lecture Series. The keynote speaker, ’77 alumnus Jerilyn Medrea, is one of her Philalethean sisters.
Sondra joined an elite group of Heidelberg alumni in the Hall of Excellence. They include Russell Gifford, ’62 (inducted in 1992); the late Ralph Besse, ’26 (2000); and current Trustee and alumnus John Q. Adams, ’58 (2009).
The Class of 2013 also includes Harold W. Burlingame of Muskingum University, retired executive vice president of AT&T, and Clifford D. Shields of the University of Mount Union, retired director of education relations & corporate contributions at Standard Oil Co.
In selecting inductees for its Hall of Excellence, the OFIC considers qualifications such as commitment to private higher education through fundraising, advocacy, student engagement, volunteerism or other service; achievement in professional career or field of service; and leadership in chosen field.